Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Tech Ops Nazi

I attended the excellent Atlassian Starter Day on Wednesday; it was a great session with many highlights (including a surprise appearance by Tom Cruise !) and worthy of multiple posts.

With DevOps Days USA fast approaching (I'm on one of the panels), it was interesting to hear multiple speakers at Starter Day talk about devops concepts. One of the highlights for me was Jochen Frey, Scout Labs' CTO, talking about how to run an effective startup engineering team (and how to mess it up). He seemed pretty sleep-deprived, citing Scout Labs' recent acquisition by Lithium Technologies as the reason, but got one of the biggest rounds of applause of the day for soldiering through to the end.

Jochen especially got my attention when he described the importance of having a "tech ops nazi" on your team. This is a kind of QA / program manager / IT ops hybrid person who essentially acts (alone or with their team) as a buffer between the developers and the deployed code, checking multiple criteria before new code is deployed:
  • the code builds successfully
  • all the expected changes are included in each build
  • all the tests pass on the deployment platform
  • the deployment configuration is standardized
A lot of this can and should be automated - see Eric Ries' excellent "Continuous Deployment in 5 Easy Steps" for some ideas here - but there's no substitute for a human with one foot in development and the other in deployment to deal with the edge cases that always come up.

I've been doing this kind of role myself for the last few years and really enjoy it, so it was nice to get some validation. That said, I'd rather think of myself as a devops enabler than a tech ops nazi !

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